A Carpentry Tale
It is too bad that carpentry is not genetic. I am not a carpenter; in fact, I struggle to draw straight lines. My sister is not a carpenter, though she has built a number of wooden objects. Unfortunately – grievously – the Kline female apples have fallen far from the tree since my dad is a very skilled carpenter; skilled in both building and rebuilding.
Many of my childhood memories involve hanging out with my dad at his shop, watching him fix an engine or build a cabinet. Many of our Christmas presents were fashioned out of a leftover piece of scrap wood. My dad taught me how to cut wood, decoupage and varnish it to make a wall plaque; a decoration, I might add, that I own to this day. As a young girl, I used to tighten the clamp for my dad before he began to cut through a metal pipe with his special saw (it pains me that I have so little knowledge of carpentry that I cannot even formulate the name of this saw). I used to play in the sawdust left over from a long day’s work of sawing logs, cutting them into boards, and planing them smooth. I clearly remember the day that the framework for the outside of our house in Sela Valley was hoisted up by countless whooping natives, for my dad, to the best of my knowledge, built almost every house we lived in while on the Indonesian mission field.
I love the smell of wood chips and sawdust; they evoke happy memories for me. And it is true, when something is being built, it invokes joy and hope and happiness. This is due to the fact that something new and wonderful is on the horizon. The word ‘building’ opens up vistas of possibilities, opportunities to fashion a brand-new object. Creating something new is always exciting.
It is the skill of rebuilding, however, that speaks to me more. Think about this with me as I try to flesh my thoughts out through a ‘carpentry tale.’ Picture a couple that has saved up a lot of money to build a house on some inherited land. That house is built and years later, the addition of some kids make it a lived-in, memory-filled home. One day, however, there is a circuit that shorts and a fire begins to burn. Firemen are called and rush to the scene, but they cannot save the whole house. After a desperate fight against the raging flames, the stunned family stands around the convoluted mess that they formerly called a home and they wonder how they are going to make it. All their furniture, all their clothes, all their keepsakes, burned and gone. All that remains seems ruined and although the foundation and much of the walls are still standing – though charred – this family is bereft. They do not have the funds to build another house; all their money was sunk into the cost of building. The kids are crying, the wife is sorrowful, and the firemen completely at their wits’ end.
However, the father knows something that the family does not. When the house was built, he had paid into a very good insurance company, covering fire, flood and hurricane disasters. Even while he grieves the loss of their home, the father knows there will be enough money in a fund to pay for the rebuilding, the refurbishing, of their home. Insurance would not build a new home, but it would supply the money needed to rework and rebuild from the groundwork of their current structure. Though the situation is extremely sad, the father knows that with some hard work, some good tools, and a skilled carpentry team, a house very similar to the one now lying in rubble can be rebuilt on the original foundation, with some original woodwork, and within the framework of the original pattern. And in this dichotomy of sadness and hope lies the difference between building and rebuilding.
You see, building beckons a new beginning. Rebuilding, on the other hand, takes the hands of both sadness and hope and marries them. Building is often a one-time event. After the original structure is finished, anything new that is built onto the original is called an addition, not a building. Rebuilding, on the other hand, is a long process; it is a movement of fluid change and longer-term restructuring. Building provides hospitals and roads and bridges, objects that can be seen and touched. Rebuilding kick-starts industries, economies and dreams. Building has to do with making something new, but the art of rebuilding transforms ruins into homes, rubble into masterpieces; it remakes something good-turned-awful into something better-than-before. Yes, building creates new and beautiful structures, but rebuilding re-creates a beautiful transformation out of a structure that a cruel world has ruined and discarded: trash turned to treasure.
A Brief Review
If you are just joining me this second week, let me recap my former thoughts to bring you alongside. Six years ago, the Lord laid this theme of rebuilding into a foundation in my heart; it has become imbedded in the fabric of my spirituality. When God speaks to me about holiness and righteousness, I picture rebuilding. In struggling over inherent sins and learning to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, I know I am rebuilding. As I pursue God with all my being, I am being rebuilt in the hands of a Master Carpenter. Even as I look out from my inner life to those with whom and to whom I minister, I know God is using me as a rebuilder. This concept of rebuilding is never far from my heart.
Six years ago I felt led of the Lord to begin writing a Bible study on Nehemiah, called Rebuilding Broken Walls. I obediently laid down a lot of ministry in order to engage fully in what I thought God was asking me to do. What I did not know then – and for which I am eternally grateful to the Lord – was that God planned to break me down first. He planned to destroy a lot of my faith’s framework with His holy fire because He, in His incredible wisdom, knew that I needed to be broken myself and allow the Carpenter to rebuild me before I could authentically write on the topic of rebuilding.
Last month’s series, Lessons From the Pit, describes how God broke me. This month I am attempting to harness eighteen months of study on Nehemiah into three small devotionals on rebuilding. A formal Bible study may still be a long way off, but I am finally thrilled to be able to engage this topic that burns in my soul. I have not felt the Lord’s affirmative in revisiting the subject of rebuilding since 2013 so these devotionals feel like a personal move of the Spirit in me.
Before a person can begin rebuilding, however, he must assess the damage. The visual of Nehemiah sneaking out at night riding a donkey to inspect the broken-down walls of Jerusalem is so instructive for me. He shares that he had told no one what God had put in his heart to do for Jerusalem. The project was rebuilding, but Nehemiah knew that he needed to assess the damage and create a plan before he could move head-long into the rebuilding process. So, after a three-day rest from his trip, he set out on a donkey to examine the ruins: the walls that had been broken down and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 2:11-13). In short, he perused the ruins, which was the exact topic of last week’s devotional.
This week, we will be thinking through a plan of rebuilding. Who is in charge? What needs to be rebuilt and what needs to be trashed? When should a person begin rebuilding? Where should you start the process of rebuilding? What is the cost of the rebuilding? These are just a few questions that I hope we will answer with Zechariah as our instructor:
“So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel…” (Zechariah 4:6-10a)
Rebuilding 101: Preparing to Rebuild
What are we rebuilding?
We celebrated Timmy’s fourth birthday while we were home in the States this summer. It was fun to celebrate around family and friends and Timmy thought it particularly fun because he made out like a bandit. Birthdays are pretty pared down when it is just the five of us together. That’s just the nature of living away from family on the other side of the world.
Anyway, Timmy’s cousins bought this type of new building set called an IQ builder, a great name from a parent’s perspective. Timmy has recently become very interested in building with this set and has fashioned all manner of objects from it. I find that the IQ building quotient comes about on the parent’s side, however, in attempting to deduce the nature of the objects he has created. Instead of saying, “What is that?” or “What are we building here?” and thereby destroying his identity, it is important for me to use my creativity in deducing the intent of his creations. Here are my latest IQ building questions I will ask him: “So…what were you thinking about when you created this? What other object is this like? When did you see this object before?” Clever, huh? Even with all my hedging questions, I still often cannot guess what he is building sometimes. Maybe I need an IQ builder.
Never in a God-appointed rebuilding project do you have to guess as to God’s intentions. Never do you have to ask clever, roundabout questions to deduce His will. Never do you have to take an IQ test to see if you are capable of understanding the Bible. If you read God’s Word and have a heart that is open to Him, His ways will be made very clear to you. And this revelation includes rebuilding plans: who, what, where, when, and how.
Spirit, Soul and Body
So first, we tackle the question ‘what?’ You are body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians. 5:23). Your body handles all the physical aspects of your being. It is where you taste, touch, feel, hear, and see. All of your thinking, your will, your emotions, your personality, psyche and conscience are housed in your soul. And the place that the Holy Spirit lives in is your spirit. That is the part of you He quickens, enlivens, when He comes to take up residence in you. I believe that is the portion of you that is made new when you become a Christian (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Last week I used Jerusalem as an metaphorical example of a person’s inner life. Everything from the walls to the palace to the tombs stands for something in your inner world; that inner world being your soul and spirit. I have done a lot of research on this subject, but I am not a trained theologian. You may have a completely different opinion about all of this, and that is okay. What I propose to you makes the most sense to me and has actually cleared up a lot of haze I have experienced in talking about what actually becomes new in us and how we commune with God.
God, by way of the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in our spirit and it becomes brand-new from the outset. He begins work immediately to transform the other portions of our being and the work of sanctification will continue until we are taken home to be with Him. So, the soul is not made new right away. That is why Paul struggled with wanting to do the right thing but not being able to (See especially Romans 7:14-20). He understood that part of him – his soul – was still under the law. He needed God to do the work of conforming his soul to Christ along with his body.
God communes with us from our own spirit, but because we are not spirit, we have to have a mediator. I believe that mediator is our soul. You and I are physical beings and struggle to understand spiritual things so God uses our soul to make things clear to us in the spiritual realm. The meeting place between God and man occurs in this nebulous place deep within us that we term the soul. In essence, this is the Temple where we come to God and He comes to us.
I believe the soul is the gate to the spirit. The soul – our emotions, our thoughts, our wills – are the instruments God uses to engage us spiritually. When we worship, we worship through our thoughts, with our feelings, and by our will, but we meet with Him in our soul. In the same way, I believe the Holy Spirit, living in our spirit, engages us through the same means. He talks through our thoughts. He engages our heart through our feelings. And He speaks to all of us differently because our personalities are all varied.
Our main Zechariah passage is very clear about God’s plan for rebuilding the inner world. As he encourages Zerubbabel to adopt His will, He is specific in what he is to rebuild: the Temple: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.’ Before any other building project was started, like the walls or even people’s own houses, God desired that the temple be completed. Why was the temple so important to God?
From last week, you will remember that the Babylonians broke through the wall of Jerusalem in 486 B.C. and burned and pillaged the city. They burned the temple and tore it down. They broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were in the temple. They took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. Additionally, the commander took the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, lampstands, dishes and bowls used for drink offerings (Jeremiah 52: 17-19). (Much of the temple furnishings had been taken earlier, but the Babylonians pretty much cleared out the bronze, silver and gold that was left).
After killing many leaders and priests, the Babylonians took into exile hundreds of Israelites. These Israelites joined other exiles in Babylon, two waves of prisoners that had been taken years before. Daniel was taken in that first wave and Ezekiel in the second wave. These exiles remained in Babylon for approximately 70 years.
Imagine their fear and disgrace in losing that temple and being held captive in a foreign land. The temple housed the very Shekinah glory of God in the Ark of the Covenant. The Levites’ only portion was to be God; they had no earthly inheritance (Joshua 18:7, to the right). The priests were the people’s only mediator between God and themselves. The sacrificial system was the only way they had to cover their sins. The temple was the core of their spiritual life. Without it, they were bereft of God, His presence, and His cleansing forgiveness. That temple was everything to both them and God; it was the only way for both God and man to dwell in each other’s presence.
The Temple Layout
With all this talk of temples, what does it actually mean? Why was the tabernacle given to the Israelites and what is its meaning to us? These are just a couple of questions that beg answers, especially if you and I are to take God’s injunction of rebuilding the temple as seriously as Zechariah, Haggai, and Zerubbabel did.
The original tabernacle and the later temple were separated into three sections. There was the courtyard, which housed the Brazen Altar and the Laver. This was the most public place of the tabernacle, where people and priests mingled in worship. The next section – the Holy Place – was off limits to the general populous. There were three pieces of furniture in this room: the table of shewbread, the altar of incense and the menorah or lampstand. Only the priests could move about freely in this room. The last sectioned-off room was the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of the Covenant. This was off limits to the Israelites and all priests except the High Priest, who could only enter once a year and with severe instructions. The Ark housed the Shekinah glory of the Presence of God.
There are zillions of books and information on the layout of the tabernacle so I do not need to bore you with all these details, though they are phenomenally interesting to me. What is important to know is that each of the pieces of furniture had a certain spiritual meaning, a meaning that was profoundly important to God, the priests and the Israelites.
(click a picture to expand)
(Picture on the left borrowed from Logos Bible Software, Copyright 2008; picture on the right borrowed from: https://inthebeginningnow.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-tabernacle-patterns-of-three-and-yeshuas-comments/.)
There was only one gate into the courtyard. The people had only one way to enter into God’s presence, through the Gate or Door of His invitation. They could not crawl over the high tent walls or tunnel underneath. God prescribed one method of worship: it had to be His way or the highway.
The Brazen Altar or Altar of Burnt Offerings, depending on your Bible translation, was a bloody mess. The people brought animals as offerings, either in confession or praise or thanksgiving. The priest would kill the animal in the prescribed manner and would sprinkle that blood over the worshiper and the altar. This was God’s way of saying that He heard their hearts, accepted their worship and forgave their sins. The Laver, also situated in the courtyard, was a place of cleansing. The priests could look into that laver fashioned by mirrors and see himself as God saw him. He could wash away the blood on his hands and be cleansed in the process.
The Table of Shewbread had twelve loaves always laid on its surface. The priests were allowed to eat of that bread in fellowship with each other and with God. All the priests would eat together in the light of the Lampstand. The Lampstand was tended very carefully. It was the only light in the Holy Place and all manner of worship took place under its gentle glow. Wicks were trimmed and oil replenished so that its light never ran out. The Altar of Incense was lit by the coals of the brazen altar. The priests had a special mix of incense that they used to keep a sweet-smelling aroma pervading that Holy Place. There were specific instructions about how to mix the incense, when to use it and how to keep the altar lit.
There was a huge curtain separating the two holy places. That curtain was a holy barrier between God and man. It was needed to separate holiness from humanness. And then in the Most Holy Place God dwelled. One priest once a year would go behind that curtain to make atonement for all the people. It was a dangerous endeavor, meeting Sovereignty like that. He had bells on his robe and a rope around his ankle in case he did not survive the encounter; someone could then pull him out. God’s Ark was a place of mercy as seen in the Mercy Seat but it was a holy place, the footstool of God Himself (Isaiah 66:1).
So now, with all of this information, what does it mean to us and to the rebuilding God wants to do in us? Zerubbabel was tasked with the awesome job of rebuilding the Temple again after its destruction. In essence, God was saying how important it was to Him, that after 70 years with no real possibility of fellowship between He and His chosen people, the time to rebuild intimacy was at hand. God planned that this rebuilding project would also begin to rebuild the sweet union He had once experienced with His people.
All of this Temple rebuilding talk has everything to do with us as well, even though we live more than 2400 years later. Think of your inner life – your interior, your soul – as the temple of the Living God. When God asks us to rebuild, He is speaking about our relationship with Him, about our level of worship to Him, about our degree of fellowship with Him. God is calling you and me to a huge rebuilding project, the rebuilding of our intimacy with Him.
What does this intimacy entail? You do not have to look further than the Temple layout to know the components of God’s rebuilding plan. Intimacy involves at least seven components, seven building blocks, if you will. The first component is one I pray you have all engaged in and that is the response to God’s invitation to enter into Him. He is the Gate. He is the only Door (Jn. 10:7, 9) and all that want to come into relationship with Him, must pass through that door. They must confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that He has risen from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10). If you have not taken that initial step, intimacy with God is a mute point. Only by passing the One Way sign can you come to understand union with God. Intimacy requires a one-time passing through Christ the Gate.
A second building block of intimacy is confession. We see this in the symbol of the Laver. The Israelites had to bring an animal to be killed on their behalf in order to experience forgiveness for their sins. Christ came to be the Living Sacrifice for us. He was the Burnt Offering and He died once for all (Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18) to bring us to the place where we can experience forgiveness. Worship begins with acknowledging Christ’s work on our behalf. Intimacy cannot happen unless confession of sins clears the way for us to know, deep in our soul, that we are forgiven. It does not matter how much you have sinned. It does not matter how much guilt you feel. What matters is that Christ has paid the price for your sin. Using your mind and emotions and will to engage this truth kick-starts a journey of intimacy, but I do not believe intimacy will occur between you and God unless sin is dealt with and forgiveness is totally received. Intimacy requires constant confession and forgiveness.
Moving left across the tabernacle diagram, we encounter the Laver. As you and I move deeper into worship and intimacy with God, we also will encounter a spiritual laver. That laver is the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in that Word. The cleansing and washing we will discover falls under the domain of another big word we call sanctification. Christ speaks a word over us after we have accepted His forgiveness. The word cleans us (John 15:3), washes us in the rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6). Christ’s name and the power of the Holy Spirit work together to wash, sanctify and justify us before God (1 Corinthians 6:11). If you desire deeper intimacy with God, you must be in the Word of God and allow it to mirror truths into your life (James 1:22-25). You must also be in step with the Spirit to allow Him to do the work of washing you on a daily basis. Intimacy requires consistent washing and renewal by the Word and Spirit.
The Holy Place demonstrates three more aspects of intimacy with God. The Table of Shewbread stood as a place of fellowship between the priests and God. They fed on the loaves of bread and communed under the light of the Lampstand. If you and I want intimacy with God, we must feed on the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Jesus is our meat, our portion, our sustenance. We must fellowship with God based on the work of Christ, the words of Christ, and the life that is Christ. We must feed on truth, truth that is only found in the Person of Jesus (John 14:6) Intimacy requires consistent feeding on the Bread found in the Bible.
The Lampstand is also a type of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is called the light of the world (John 8:12), but the Holy Spirit is the One who counsels us in the truth (John 14:16-17). The light of Christ is seen through the illuminating work of the Spirit and that joint light shines all over our inner places to bring us to deeper intimacy with Christ. That spiritual light guides us into all truth and part of that truth is the conviction in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-9, 13). It is no accident to me that the priests ate the bread in the light of the lampstand. Fellowshipping with God begins with these words, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Intimacy requires consistent illumination by the Holy Spirit to discern lies from truth.
Next we move to the Altar of Incense, the place where God has a prescribed way that we approach Him. Often in Scripture, prayers are described as being set before God like incense (Psalm 141:2 for example). And Revelation carries this analogy further: “…Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 7:8). The obvious conclusion from this verses is that saints pray. Christ is seen in this piece of furniture too, since He lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25), so we have this interplay of intimacy: Jesus praying for us as we pray to God. Intimacy requires consistent prayer.
The curtain is not a piece of furniture, but I do want to mention its incredible significance to intimacy. During the Israelite days, that curtain was a barrier. No one could cross except one man on one day for one reason. But when Christ died, that veil was ripped from top to bottom; in other words, God ripped it down for you and for me (Matthew 27:51). Christ opened up a way into the Most Holy Place through His own body, which is even called a curtain (Hebrews 10:20). The new and living way into God’s presence is through the body of Christ and this knowledge anchors our soul so that we can enter the inner sanctuary behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19). Intimacy requires consistent hope in our great High Priest whose body is the new curtain.
Lastly, we look at the Ark of the Covenant. This was a box with an atonement cover of pure gold. Two cherubim were fashioned and placed at either end with their wings overshadowing the ark. Inside of the ark the Testimony or commandments were to be placed and God told Moses that there, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, He would meet with them and give all of His commands (Exodus 25:17-22). The God of all the universe who created all that is seen will not be contained in a box, but above that Mercy seat of grace, and above the commands of holiness and righteousness, God comes to meet with us. Based on Christ’s blood of mercy and God’s holy expectations for us, He comes to us. I love the imagery of Psalm 85:10-11 because it depicts the intimacy of the Most Holy Place, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.” Intimacy is meeting together, kissing each other, our heart looking up connecting with God’s heart looking down.
I know this may have seemed like a long look at something obscure, but it is the essence of the book of Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah. The temple was paramount in the eyes of God. Its rebuilding was first in the Divine plan. And because God desires it, we should too.
In summary, what should we be rebuilding? We are rebuilding the temple within, reworking our lives so that intimacy with God is something we can grasp. The steps are clear. Enter by Jesus (gate). Make sure there is no sin between you and Him; instead confess to make things right and accept the forgiveness He gives (brazen altar). Move deeper into intimacy by cleansing yourself in the mirror of the Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit (laver). Move into the Holy Place by feasting on that same Word of God, fellowshipping with Him in sweet communion (table of shewbread), praying with and to Him (altar of incense), and seeking to live by truth as demonstrated by the Spirit (lampstand). Move in confidence through the curtain into the Holy of Holies, where you can meet your Lover face to face (ark of the covenant). Intimacy is a lifelong journey that begins with a single step – just a simple step of faith that believes He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
When should we rebuild?
There is a house in our muubaan that is currently being rebuilt. For the two years we have lived in this subdivision, it has been an eye-sore. Leaky roof. Sagging walls. Tumble-down gate. And overgrown foliage, the kind of foliage that houses varying forms of long creepy-crawlies. At night, I have actually walked past this house faster than all the others, but I am not afraid of the dark, or snakes or spiders or scorpions. No, not me (I think it would make a good Halloween haunted house if “good” and “haunted” can be placed in the same sentence).
But in the last three months or so, there has been a lot of activity at that house. The first renovation I observed was that the roof was totally ripped off. Now, for those of you who do not live in the tropics, you need to know that June through October encompass the rainy season; it rains everyday and it rains heavily. So when I saw the broken and chipped tiles all coming off and the tarps being spread over the revealed holes, I laughed pretty hard. It seemed ridiculous that they would accomplish a renovation in the midst of storm season.
But my laughter increased, for after the roof came off, the walls came down. I could literally stand in the street and see the backyard neighbor’s front porch…through the living room of the gutted house. Ludicrous I thought. These people have no concept of rebuilding; they don’t even know when it is safe to build. All of their materials are going to be damaged by the rains before they are even installed.
And that shows you what I know about carpentry, because the workers are rebuilding and they are doing a fantastic job. In between the rains, they uncover the roof, install tiles and work very heartily. The tarps are keeping everything dry. Nothing seems to be damaged and the gutted structure is beginning to take on the appearance of a house again.
Why would these workers dodge raindrops all day to get their work done? Why would they have begun this rebuilding process, in what seems to me, to be the worst possible building time of the year? The answer is because of a very determined man. I believe their diligence is due to a new owner who desires to move into a nice home and he is willing to pay the extra wages for these workers to finish the rebuilding process…at the worst season of the year to build.
Dear one, like these house builders, you and I are called to begin the rebuilding process in our lives at some of the worst possible times. Dry seasons make it hard to rebuild; the sun is hot, the ground is hard and throats are parched. Winter seasons are difficult too. Cramped and frozen fingers make it difficult to hold the necessary tools. Extra clothing to maintain basic normative body temperatures encumber the building process. Flu season often strikes with its unexpected weaknesses and debilitating fevers. And yes, there are always rainy seasons where a deluge of storms threaten to destroy the building materials.
With all the hard seasons and untimely interruptions in our lives, how do you and I know when to begin rebuilding? It seems like there is never a good season to commence this hard work. Families need tended, ministries need organized, people need watched, projects need completed, husbands need supported, wives need communication, schools need helpers, and the list of needs goes on and on and on. So honestly, when does this work happen?
Zechariah is very clear as to the perfect time to rebuild. He does not beat around the bush, but tells us straight up. Frankly, we begin the rebuilding process when the God of the universe and Lord of our lives tells us to begin – good season, rainy season, crippled season, you name it. God is not cowed by our seasons. He is not put off by what seems ridiculous or ludicrous or a waste of good working time. Metaphorically, He is that determined new owner and we house His Holy Spirit so God is highly invested in our renovation. Not only is He determined and involved, but He knows everything. The seasons that seem so set against certain types of interior work may be the very seasons He has predetermined your interior rebuilding to begin. Putting off the work of rebuilding until a more conducive season comes along does more than delay the Divine Carpenter; it undermines, even destroys, the progressive plan God has made for your life.
You may think these are overly-dramatic words, but I believe them to be true. I cannot tell you how many times I have spoken these words over my dawdling boys, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” As a parent, I feel disrespected when my children disobey outright, but I feel equally disrespected when they dawdle. Timmy will look right at me and drag one foot after another. I have had to say, “Walk faster when you obey,” and I have had to discipline for the dawdling the same as I would for outright rebellion. As a parent, I do not sense a difference between the heart attitude of a delaying obeyer and an outright disobeyer. You see, delayed disobedience is passive aggressive, but it is still rebellion.
A friend and I were chuckling over her observation that the gospel writer, Mark, does everything either ‘immediately’ or ‘at once’. Check it out. Mark is the shortest gospel, yet packs a terrific punch, because all of the actions are distilled down to what is imperative. Personally, I think this might be because Mark knew about delayed obedience. He was the one that backed out of Paul’s mission trip and caused a rift between two lifelong friends (see Acts 12:25 and Acts 15:36-40). The work of the Lord still went on, but a lot of it went on without him because he chose to delay instead of obey.
God hates disobedience; just read through most of the Old Testament to realize this is true. But delaying obedience is no better. Ecclesiastes 5:4 mentions an interesting name for people who delay, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.” God calls delayers of His will “fools.” I think that is also why God calls David a man after His own heart for David, a man who obeyed in rebuilding his inner life in good seasons and in bad seasons, spoke these words after being with the Word, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:70).
Where, you might ask, do I see this urgency by God to begin the interior work of rebuilding ‘at once?’ Take notice with me that in these short verses of Zechariah chapter four, we see the words ‘he said,’ ‘God said,’ or the ‘Word of the Lord’ four times. God made sure Zechariah knew He was speaking and He made doubly sure that Zechariah passed on to Zerubbabel that the Word of the Lord had come to him. That seemed to mean a lot to God. I guarantee there is meaning in that for you and me as well.
Haggai was another prophet called by God to help light a fire under the builders of the temple. He spoke directly to their delayed obedience. The people constantly questioned the timing of building. Hear the Lord’s facetious answer, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin” (Haggai 1:3) In other words, “You have made time to build your houses and to deck them out extravagantly, but have not taken one second to even plan to rebuild my temple, which is lying in ruins.”
Before the Israelites could even respond to God, He spoke a Word that puts a shiver in my spine:
“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it…What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountain, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands” (Haggai 1:4-11).
Whew! If that doesn’t put the fear of God into you, I do not know what will. God is saying here that because they delayed rebuilding when He told them to do it, they experienced drought, thirst, hunger, lack of warmth, emptied pockets and desert-like conditions. Whatever they worked so hard on, God blocked its efficacy. All that toil – the planning, the planting, the harvesting, the running, the busy-work – all of it for nought. It meant nothing to God because they would not prioritize what meant everything to Him. God says that He actually called for the drought in their life in order to wake them up to the task He had already laid before them. In actuality, God ripped their satisfaction, fulfillment and joy right out of their too-busy hands. They were lost in a spiritual wasteland without a compass and they did not even know it.
That is why God provided Haggai and Zechariah to be a light to show the way, to be the very voice of God to the rebuilders, and to be a holy fire under their hard-working, but extremely disobedient, feet. God felt it was important for the rebuilders of the Temple to know Who was in charge and when they should commence the work. God made certain-sure that they knew He had appointed the start of rebuilding and that when He spoke a calling-out over a project, His Word would kick-start transformation, but only on one condition: those rebuilders needed to begin the work of rebuilding when God said to do so and that “when” was “at once.”
What are the costs of rebuilding?
Rebuilding can be quite costly. There is a need to first rip down broken walls and pull up warped floorboards. Trash and rubble must be cleared away. Tearing down ruins takes a lot of time and energy…and money. But then comes the buying of all the new materials. Since the new is being merged with the old, care must be taken to not override former colors or styles. This takes a lot of research and expertise…and money. After all of those decisions are made, a crew is brought to begin pounding and sanding and cementing. Again, one expends a lot of sweat and tears in the rebuilding of something new… and a whole lot of money.
But God mentions two aspects of normal renovations in His Word to Zechariah that will not be counted as cost: might and power. That word ‘might’ means “force, whether of men, means or other resources.” “Power” means “to be firm; vigor, literally force or figuratively capacity, means, produce” (ESV Strong’s). In my unprofessional thinking, I understand these words quite well; they are very similar to how we would interpret these two words in English, so what is God saying here in this passage?
The normal cost expended in rebuilding usually involves a lot of people, possibly a great company or host of skilled workmen. It can also involve a great deal of money, an awful lot of strength and a whole bunch of courage. That is normal for the rebuilding process, but God never deals in the realm of the ordinary.
Contrarily, He tells Zechariah that there will not have to be a cost of might and power. The people will not have to have a host of workers, a lot of money, choose only the strongest or even be very brave. They will not have to expend superhuman energy, because He is going to supply that portion. His Spirit will take on the cost of the work. All the builders need to do is lean on His Spirit for all their resources. This is amazing! God is actually saying that He will foot the bill for the work through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So does that mean we are off the hook? No more work, no more cost, no more worries? Just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do His miracles? Absolutely no, because spiritually-speaking, all rebuilders are disciples and God has very clear words to say about the cost of being a disciple of His.
Jesus engaged a large crowd that was following Him in Luke 14 about the costs of being a disciple. He used phrases like “hating your father” and “giving up everything” in his description of the cost of being a disciple. He even uses a building analogy, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14: 28-30).
Precious ones, you need to understand this dichotomy of cost. When God calls you to rebuild your interior, He is asking you to give up everything else that is important to you, everything that busies your hand, everything that stands in the way of His work in your life, in order to engage His will. Rebuilding will not cost you a lot; it will cost you everything. You call Him “Lord,” but what good is that if you delay obedience? You call Him “Master,” to no avail, if you are not willing to lay down your priorities for His. Precious friend, Jesus died to make a rebuilding work possible. Will you toss aside His good work on the cross to shore up your reputation? Will you squeeze His love out of your life and replace it with a “whitewashed wall” that looks good on the outside, but is destined for ruin (Ezekiel 13:10-15)? If you do, God will appoint a desert for you, guaranteed.
But if you count the cost and see that the alternative of doing life without God’s favor and blessing is abhorrent and deplorable to you, then take the plunge, dear one, to begin rebuilding. Surrender it all and you will find life. Break your heart open to God’s surgery and you will find love. We call that brokenness. We call that surrender. God calls it plain-old discipleship, discipleship being a requirement for every God-rebuilder.
And then watch what happens in your life. God will take over. God will move mountains out of your way, Zechariah says. God will do all the heavy lifting through His Holy Spirit and the cost to you will feel like a light-hearted joy. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).
So what is the cost of rebuilding? It is everything and then glory of all glories, it becomes nothing.